From the curves cutting through the ancient vineyards of Collio to the straights across the Grado lagoon, from the grand thoroughfares of imperial Trieste to the ‘wavy’ roads along the coast: Friuli-Venezia Giulia – the easternmost of Italy’s regions, along the border with Slovenia – offered a fascinating itinerary, in every way, for a test-drive of the Ferrari 296 GTS.
Behind the wheel for a couple of days of intensely fun driving was Ferrari Competizioni GT driver Miguel Molina, who – amongst his many racing victories – can also boast a first place at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
“I got in the 296 GTS for the first time after having tested the 296 GT3 on the circuit and I was impressed how this ‘road version’ offers impressive power and incredible driving pleasure and how the internal combustion and electric engines work sublimely together,” Molina remarks.
“You don’t get the least sense of being at the wheel of a 6-cylinder. It’s a car that’s really fun in all circumstances.”
And that started from the city streets, which the 296 GTS approached with its ‘green’ spirit. Trieste, the region’s capital – renowned for its 17th and 18th century white palaces in the Imperial style, broad piazze and wide thoroughfares alongside the sea – is a city that offers many beautiful sights to be enjoyed at a slow speed.
And the Ferrari electric engine, with its 25 kilometres of electric-only mileage, was the perfect companion for Molina during his urban wanderings.
“For a pilota it’s a bit of an uncanny sensation to drive in complete silence, but it was really nice, really fluid. The car’s digital dashboard changes so as to show you only the information you need, but even in this all-new, ‘electric’ environment you always feel like you’re at the wheel of a Ferrari.”
During a splendid, cloudless autumn day, Molina couldn’t resist the temptation to press the button and see the roof of the 296 GTS disappear in just 14 seconds. From that moment on, he could enjoy the smells and colours of the countryside and the sea offered by coastal roads that wound their way between steep mountainsides and sheer drops to the waters below.
After the silence of the drive along urban streets, the 830 cv of the six-cylinder gently rumbled back to life. “The sound of the engine with the roof off is powerful, it’s aggressive, it’s Ferrari, but it’s not... excessive,” Molina observes. “I would say it’s a modern sound. And the drive is comfortable, too, without turbulence. The air flow is not at all bothersome.”
The tight roads of Collio feature edgy curves that climb up the hills and open to infinite views, allowing Molina to test the dynamic nature of the 296 GTS’s short wheelbase.
“On those roads, the driving feeling is extraordinary. The car is really compact and its reaction times are immediate. Driving up the hills at speed and rounding these tight curves, the sensation is of an extraordinary agility.”
At the end of the day, the drive led back toward the sea. This time, instead of the sheer cliffs of before, Molina took the straights that border the Grado lagoon. The calm waters caressed the sides of the road. Far off in the centre of the lagoon, tiny islands hosting high bell towers cast long shadows over fishing huts and small piers.
The Official Ferrari Magazine organised a small surprise for Miguel Molina: traffic was closed on the 4-kilometre bridge that crosses the lagoon, connecting the town of Grado to the mainland. A small ‘present’ that allowed the pilota to put the pedal to the metal and unleash the car’s record 221 cv-per-litre power.
“What to say?” Molina says with a smile, revealing his full pleasure as he recollects that sprint.
“Acceleration is really powerful. When both engines kick in, you get pressed to your seat. It’s a wonderful sensation that perfectly reflects the nature of this car.”